12 Sept | Leading through Continuous Learning

Lead: Leading Through Continuous Learning

To change the game of school, we need to learn continuously and learn well about how to do this.


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To change the game of school, we need to learn continuously and learn well about how to do this. We need to learn how to ask the right questions about what it is that we're trying to achieve. We need to learn how to use these answers to help us to map the journey ahead according to the objective of what we're trying to do in mind. It’s all about how we prioritise how we reflect on the growth and development of our character individually and collectively as leaders. 

We need to do this by rethinking rather than mimicking the routines and structures that we've inherited. We need to define what the architecture of learning, the physical space, and the allocation of time all might look like in a school. 

We then need to equip ourselves to do the right job. This is where we have to be strong and see this as our personal and professional responsibility. If we’re in the middle of the game and changing it as we go, then we can’t wait for our needs to be met by others or for the system to predict and drip-feed us resources. We need to supply ourselves with the resources that are going to help us to do our work and ensure that these are available for us when we need them. 

To do the job that needs to be done as leaders who are Game Changers, we need to permission ourselves to fulfil our purpose without waiting to be told what to do. Instead, we need to go through the process and work out what we want to achieve and then find a way within reason to make it happen. We've also got to work at what we can to enable and empower people to do what they do best within this broader plan. This empowerment of the voice, agency and advocacy of leaders and learners is absolutely critical so that, together, we can design pathways, learn from the experience of what we're doing, and evolve the model over time. 

We can’t wait for a one-size-fits-all, allegedly perfect system and then try and make people fit that system when they don't and won’t. So, along the way, we've got to partner with students, teachers, and families, and personalise the process for them. If we're not prepared to negotiate and to respect students as collaborators, as partners, as the main agents of learning, then we're going to get nowhere.

We are realizing that less is more, that our values and relationships are essential to supporting learning, and that the physical, personal and emotional needs of our students can't be overlooked by systems; they need to be placed first. So we're holding onto what's essential and enduring in education, and finding new ways in which they might be manifested. 

We're learning that what we need in our current circumstance (and moving forward) in our schools is not the same as learning in a traditional school environment. We need a new model. We know that the model that's being created right now in schools draws on the wisdom, adaptive expertise and self-efficacy of colleagues all over the world, who might never have imagined that what they're doing right now is possible, and yet have freed themselves from the old paradigm. So we can, and we are, making this new model real. 

In our emerging model for a future fit and future-ready education, we should have a community of inquiry and practice dedicated to the improvement of outcomes for more learners. We should have it housed within an ecosystem which is human-centred, technologically enriched, people and place and planet conscious, and intentionally purposeful about what it does. We should have a process for the personalisation of the learning experience and a set of values that govern the desirable character, competency and wellness that should emerge from this experience. We should have a framework and a pedagogy to deliver these personalised experiences which are also aligned to a set of shared expectations for excellence and achievement. 

We should have a process to support professional learning about how best to support the intuition and the professional judgment of the teachers with an entire research base about exemplary practice. We need to help teachers to become transformed in their capacity to influence the lives of their students by engendering confidence in themselves and their future built on demonstrable growth in their character, competency, and wellness. We also need to help teachers to believe in their capacity to make choices about what's important and not fear the consequences of these decisions.

Our model should also contain an approach to ongoing feedback and evaluation that routinely and bravely asks questions that are inherently challenging. 

  1. How well are we looking after people and how well are they looking after themselves? 
  2. How are people structuring their time and space?
  3. How well are we holding relationships together in the community of inquiry and practice, particularly character apprenticeships?
  4. If we are seeking to inspire, nurture and support learners through personalised pathways and a set of values that are about people who can thrive in their world, what should good learning look like?
  5. How are we as a community managing expectations about what this continuous learning promises and delivers?

If we can cultivate a restlessness about our own model of leadership and we put it at the core of our practice, then we might institutionalise a culture of growth-minded change throughout the whole of school that says that we never operate from a default mechanism that preserves the status quo, but instead we look to change the game all the time through learning that's transformational rather than transactional. 

The exact possibilities of the model of learning that honours the new social contact of education – today’s learning for tomorrow’s world – are not yet clear. It's necessary to experiment and iterate all the way through in a collaborative environment where less is more and where authentic connection requires interdependence. Individual and collective voice, agency and advocacy must arise from adaptive expertise and self-efficacy across all of the members of the community. As leaders, we need to ensure that our humanity is at the heart of what we're doing. We need to take good care of that humanity as we learn continuously about how to play and succeed in the new rules of the game of school.

What are you continuing to learn about and care for your own humanity as a school leader?

Dr Phil Cummins is the Managing Partner of a School for tomorrow, Associate Professor of Education & Enterprise at Alphacrucis University College, Managing Director at CIRCLE – The Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity & Leadership in Education, and Head of Education at Voyage.

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